The Charger men's basketball team that took the court Thursday night didn't resemble the one that took the court five days earlier. And Hillsdale players, coaches and fans couldn't have been happier about that.
Playing energetic and engaged basketball at both ends of the court for 40 minutes, Hillsdale turned in its most impressive all-around performance of the season in an 80-65 win over South Division-leading University of Findlay.
The Chargers are now 7-8 overall and 3-6 in the GLIAC, and snapped Findlay's seven –game winning streak. The Oilers are 12-4 on the season.
Right from the opening tip, Hillsdale was locked in and executed at a high level at both ends of the court against a tough and talented team. In its previous game, the team trailed Lake Superior State 44-17 at halftime and did very little right. But in this game, the Chargers played with an optimal balance of effort and precision, earning their first win over the Oilers since February 27, 2014.
Hillsdale held Findlay to just 22 points and 32 percent shooting in the first half and built a 34-22 lead. The Oilers are known for making huge scoring runs over the years, and they did claw back into the game on a couple of occasions in the second half, trimming what was a 20-point deficit to nine. But Hillsdale counter-punched impressively and maturely, led by sophomore guard Nate Neveau.
Summoning up his considerable heart and will, Neveau powered his way to a career-high 23 points, along with 12 rebounds, four assists and two steals. He made great decisions with the ball, finished on his drives to the basket and was especially active on the defensive boards, grabbing 10 rebounds at that end of the floor. His work helped limit the Oilers, who missed 34 shots, to just six offensive rebounds.
Four starters scored in double figures, with junior Stedman Lowry lighting it up for 19 points on 7-for-9 shooting from the field. He drained five 3-point baskets, and had four rebounds and four assists. He had a gorgeous baseline dunk that capped a 6-0 Charger run after the Oilers had cut the Hillsdale lead to nine with 4:31 left in the game.
As a team, Hillsdale made all 13 of its free throws, tying a school record for percentage. But less important than the record is when they went in. Findlay went on a 12-4 run in a span of less than two minutes to come within single figures for the first time in the second half at the aforementioned 4:31 mark. But the Chargers responded with two made free throws by Ryan Badowski and two more by Neveau in 1-and-1 situations to push the lead back to 13. Lowry's dunk ended up being the exclamation point on a feel-good victory for the Chargers.
Big-time minutes off the bench were provided by sophomore Gordon Behr, who set a career-high with six rebounds. He also picked up three assists, and his activity on the defensive end was huge for Hillsdale in keeping the Oilers from putting together any long scoring runs.
UP NEXT: Hillsdale plays at Ashland at 3 p.m. Saturday